December 16th, Bird Count

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

As we sit at the computer at noon, December 11th, overlooking Swan Street in LeSueur, we have a clear view of the bird feeders outside the window, feeders that are full of the finest bird seed, yet, where are the birds? Since dawn, a single downy and a white breasted nuthatch have eaten/stored vittles, taking only the black oil sunflower seeds. Next door, the scene is repeated, with just a family of six chittering excited chickadees busying themselves. Where are the town birds? The query by townsfolk make traveling to the grocery store an embarrassment, as the question will be repeated again and again, “Where ARE the BIRDS?”

Searching Sunday the 10th in all directions for Trumpeter Swans left us ‘swanless,’ yet more than a thousand CANADA geese used the LeSueur WastewaterTreatment Plant waters for a respite from the continual northwest wind. Then, on Thursday, December 7th, the sky fell in! With a high temperature of plus 55 degrees, Vern Bienfang, friend and skilled poultryatier from near Sibley County phoned with a story. Seems that he and his faithful sentry, a multi-mixed dog, Spice, were checking under eastern red cedar trees and fence-line bushes for errant Rouen duck eggs. (The ducks had been laying eggs a few days before.) Vern and spice came upon a number of common garter snakes slithering through the short grass. Snake adults in December? Not a common, but possible, snakes out of hibernation in December. One of the reptiles remained, with Spice guarding the lifeless critter. (We no longer publish snake photos at a request from readers.)

Vern had no more finished his report when Doris Winter of LeSueur jangled the phone with two reports, one of common house sparrows building a nest in her backyard birdhouse, and sharing a story of a tree in the yard dripping sap! Next, within the hour we spotted the bald eagles of Bucks’ Lake beginning to rebuild their spring nest. Meanwhile, back at the Minnesota River, fisher-people had chopped through the ice to get to a special spot in the river where purported walleyes and saugers would head for breakfast, while nearby, two sturgeons had been caught and released. That ice scene was chaotic and surreal, as this was winter in Minnesota, where a year ago LeSueur/Henderson had dug out from three to five inches of snow thrice by this date. Add to the previous tales the fact that chipmunks were still testing the air and gathering acorns they’d salvaged from the wild turkeys on December 10th!

What avian finds will be enumerated on December 16th? Yes, the Christmas Bird Count date fast approacheth with its 7.5 epicenter at LeSueur County Parks’ Ney Center. Citizen scientists will gather there and throughout the immediate area counting birds, or participants may count from their home bird feeders. Count forms have been sent for easy data gathering, the NEY Center staff will have the doors of the Education Center open much of the day, and further information may be obtained by Googling LeSueur County Parks and thence NEY, 507.357.8580 . Think of it! You will be part of an international group making your report from one of the 17 countries participating, from the tip of Argentina to the tundra of Canada. With a weather change by the 16th, who knows what birds will come or go by that day? Don’t forget your camera!